Public TV Taps Strain's Expertise
a Chicago public television station was producing a segment on the
history of two Windy City-based manufacturers of mallet percussion
instruments, they contacted James Strain (Music)
for his insight and a musical demonstration. Strain had published
articles on one of the companies – J.C. Deagan – for the Percussive
Arts Society journal, which he edits. He also owns many old Deagan
instruments. The end result was a segment of the "Chicago Tonight"
program that featured a performance by Strain and NMU students accompanied
by faculty colleagues in Reynolds Recital Hall and recorded by a
WNMU-TV camera crew.
his first contact with me, the producer went to my Web site and
saw my performances there
called and asked what instruments I owned," Strain said. "He
then asked if he could come up and have me demonstrate the various
instruments – several xylophones, bells/glockenspiel, marimbas,
vibraharp and chimes. I also used several marimbas manufactured
by the other company featured in the program, C. O. Musser. I quickly
put together several pieces which best illustrate the ways these
instruments were used: for ragtime, vaudeville, home entertainment,
public dancing and solo artist recital performances, which he incorporated
into the show."
was assisted by colleagues Barbara Rhyneer and
Nancy Redfern (Music),
and by NMU students Jen Howell, Christine Battjes, Steve Losiewicz
and Erik Moisio. He also evaluated the sound quality and technical
approaches to the instruments.
C. Deagan was responsible for elevating these many instruments from
merely toys to legitimate concert status," he said. "The
workmanship and tone quality of the Deagan instruments, many of
which were designed by Musser prior to him leaving the company to
begin his own business, was superior to any other company for many
decades. The surviving instruments still maintain their superior
tone quality when compared to modern instruments."
The program was
rebroadcast May 25 after originally airing March 31. Additional
information, as well as two sound clips performed by Strain, can
be found at WTTW